Two and a half years ago, Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley were just rotation players on the Michigan football team’s defensive line, with only a handful of starts between them.
The only NFL Draft speculation surrounding either of them came from an Instagram post from Charlton in November 2012, a few months before he enrolled at the University. The photo depicted an empty Draft stage and bore the caption, “One day in a couple years I’m going to walk across this stage and be able to tell my momma (I) made it!!”
Now, after two more full seasons of football and a coaching staff overhaul, both Charlton and Wormley — along with as many as a dozen of their teammates — are poised to hear their names called on a similar stage in Philadelphia at the end of April, making their dream a reality.
Friday afternoon, Charlton, Wormley and the rest of the draft-eligible Wolverines spoke to the media following the team’s annual Pro Day at Oosterbaan Field House — where they had just worked out in front of a large contingency of NFL personnel, including at least eight head coaches — and couldn’t help but reflect on how they made it to this moment.
Many of them were highly-touted recruits brought to Ann Arbor by former coach Brady Hoke, but either played below their potential in their early years or had a hard time getting on the field whatsoever. But thanks to more years of seasoning and the arrival of new coach Jim Harbaugh — and his experienced, NFL-savvy coaching staff — many of those same recruits now find themselves on the cusp of playing at the next level.
“I think maybe we did something right,” Wormley said. “We all could have went our separate ways when Coach Hoke left, but we all stuck together, we all pushed through it and made the best of it with Coach Harbaugh. And obviously, he’s done a lot of great things for us. I think it’s a combination of us putting in the work and sticking through it, and having Coach Harbaugh on our side as well.”
Harbaugh’s focus on developing players for the next level hasn’t been just limited to the highest-caliber high school talents, either. Defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow was a walk-on who worked his way into the starting lineup and is now a potential mid-round draft pick. And defensive tackle Matt Godin was a three-star recruit who didn’t become a permanent fixture on the starting line until this season, but he had a positive experience at the Pro Day and is pursuing an NFL career as well.
The sheer depth and quantity of talent earning NFL looks Friday — especially given the state of the program two seasons ago — certainly wasn’t lost on Glasgow.
“I think it says we’re taking a step in the right direction, especially with developing guys to the pros,” Glasgow said. “We were an eight-, nine-, seven- win team but only having two, three guys at the Pro Day who were getting serious looks for a few years there. I think it means we’re taking a step in the right direction in developing pro players and not just working out college players.”
And Charlton, one of the leaders of the defensive line who came on late under Harbaugh and figures to be one of the Wolverines’ highest draft picks, thinks that trend will become the new norm. With a number of assistant coaches with NFL backgrounds — including passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and defensive line coach Greg Mattison — the groundwork for a pipeline from Ann Arbor to the NFL is clearly visible.
“What Coach Harbaugh’s been able to do and what all the coaching staff has been able to do is only gonna continue in the future,” Charlton said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys that are gonna be very successful; they’re very talented, they’re just very young.
“This is the right coaching staff to elevate their game and basically teach them the right way, so I definitely have faith in what Michigan has in the future going forward. They’re in good hands.”